In Hollywood, everybody wants to direct. Michael Schroeder’s Man in the Chair chronicles the youthful ambitions and directorial evolution of Cameron (Michael Angerano), a high school slacker bent on winning a film school scholarship and escaping suburbia. Along the way, he meets Flash Madden (Christopher Plummer), the last of Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane crew, now retired and a degenerate drunk.
PG-13 for language, thematic elements
Their professional relationship begins with a weekly retainer of Cuban cigars and bourbon when Flash consults on a skateboarding film, but their relationship evolves as each learns more about the other’s life.
This dramatic buddy picture follows Cameron from merely wanting to escape his dull suburban existence to searching for craft and credibility. Flash initially wants to drown his regrets in booze. It gets interesting when Cameron realizes he does not want to escape his circumstances but to thrive within them. Upon Cameron’s change, Flash resolves to mentor the young filmmaker as restitution for his sins. The joy of this film is when the pair gels and the audience gets to revel in their victories.
Schroeder couches the filmmakers’ struggle and his own journey in Cameron’s arc. The boy changes his competition film thesis when he sees how forgotten film greats live in retirement. Especially influential is the plight of writer Mickey Hopkins (M. Emmett Walsh). Instead of a vapid skateboarding opus, Cameron chooses to document senior abuse and retirement home conditions and a documentarian is born.
Schroeder and Cameron share similar journeys. Schroeder departed from commercial projects to tell different stories. The objective of Man in the Chair was to increase awareness of social issues among younger audiences. “We wanted the visual to appeal to 18-year-olds and still use classic film techniques,” producer Randolf Turrow said.
Film runs rife with stories of personal redemption, search for identity and the passing on of knowledge. This film’s look with its jarring cuts, psychedelia and sound make the story visually interesting and allows the allegory to touch us on a subconscious level. It teaches us there is always something to learn in life and we always have something to offer the world.
“I was drawn into the project because of the relationship between Cameron and Flash,” said Angerano. I especially liked the theme of the great masters of filmmaking ushering in a new generation,” he continued.
Man in the Chair won awards at MethodFest, Stony Brook and the Palm Beach and Santa Barbara International Film Festivals. Schroeder and company hope that audiences will continue to build and translate into Oscar consideration.